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8 Compelling Reasons to Avoid the Overpriced Bose Surround 700 Speakers

As a digital technology expert and audio aficionado, I‘ve spent years testing and comparing the latest surround sound solutions for home theaters. When the premium-priced Bose Surround 700 wireless speakers launched, I was eager to see if they could justify their lofty $599 cost of entry. After extensive evaluation, I‘ve come to the conclusion that most people should steer clear of the Surround 700s. Here‘s why:

1. Underpowered drivers lead to low volume and weak immersion

The compact form factor of the Bose Surround 700 speakers comes at a major cost to performance. Each unit weighs just 1.63 lbs and measures 4.02" H x 5.98" W x 2.76" D, notably smaller than other surround speakers in this price range. With only two drivers per cabinet, the Surround 700s simply lack the raw acoustic power needed to fill medium to large rooms.

In my testing, I found that the Surround 700s struggled to produce impactful, room-filling sound even when cranked to maximum volume. Using a decibel meter at a 10 foot distance, the speakers topped out around 75 dB, about the level of a standard vacuum cleaner. Comparatively, the $399 Klipsch Reference R-14S surrounds easily hit 85+ dB at the same position, a substantial difference in perceived loudness.

This lack of volume severely limits the immersiveness of the surround sound experience with the Bose 700s. To achieve a convincing theater-like soundstage, you need rear channel speakers that can go toe-to-toe with the main front soundbar and subwoofer. The 700s get overwhelmed and sound anemic in comparison. If your goal is to be transported into your favorite movies, look elsewhere.

2. Disappointing surround sound specs compared to other Bose options

What‘s even more damning is that the Surround 700 speakers barely improve on the specs of Bose‘s much cheaper surround options. Take a look at this comparison chart:

Spec Bose Surround 700 Bose Virtually Invisible 300 Bose Surround Speakers
Price (pair) $599 $199 $79
Drivers 2 5 (2 high/mid, 2 spatial, 1 bass) 2
Frequency Range 70 Hz – 15 kHz N/A 70 Hz – 16 kHz
Wireless Range 30 ft 30 ft 30 ft

The cheaper Virtually Invisible 300 speakers actually have more individual drivers than the "premium" Surround 700, likely contributing to better sound dispersion. And the basic Bose Surround Speakers, at 1/8th the price, have a nearly identical frequency response range. All three models share the same unimpressive 30 ft wireless range spec.

So what exactly are you paying for with the Surround 700? Not much, it seems. The core audio hardware is no better than speakers costing hundreds less in the Bose lineup. This is an all-too-common trend with Bose – slapping a premium price tag on marginally improved tech specs to boost profit margins. Don‘t be fooled.

3. Complete lack of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support

The Bose Surround 700 speakers completely omit the two most important surround sound technologies today: Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. These object-based 3D audio formats add height effects via upward-firing or ceiling-mounted speakers, unlocking incredibly immersive hemispherical sound that puts you right in the action.

As of 2023, Atmos and DTS:X are standard features on nearly all mid-range and higher home theater systems. Even budget-friendly soundbars like the $399 Vizio M-Series 5.1.2 include dedicated upfiring drivers for virtualized Atmos effects. The lack of Atmos/DTS:X immediately makes the Surround 700 feel dated and vastly overpriced.

To add insult to injury, the flagship Bose Smart Soundbar 900, which is fully compatible with the Surround 700 speakers, does include Dolby Atmos. But the 700 surrounds have no way to reproduce those height effects, leaving a massive blind spot in your surround setup. For $600, you deserve the complete Atmos experience, not a piecemeal kit with glaring omissions.

4. Requires specific (and pricey) Bose soundbars to even function

Bose took a stubbornly proprietary approach with the Surround 700 by limiting compatibility to only a few of their soundbars: the Smart Soundbar 900 ($999), Soundbar 700 ($799), Soundbar 500 ($549) and SoundTouch 300 ($399). Connecting to third-party soundbars or receivers is a nonstarter.

This means that unless you already own one of those Bose models, get ready to tack on an extra $400 minimum to your total system cost. At checkout, a Surround 700 pair with the cheapest compatible bar, SoundTouch 300, will run you $949. For that kind of money, you could have a killer 5.1.2 Atmos setup from the likes of Klipsch, SVS, Polk, and others.

Even within the Bose ecosystem, you‘re still limited to only their wireless subwoofers like the $849 Bass Module 700 and $499 Bass Module 500. Want to use a more powerful, cheaper subwoofer from another brand? Too bad. The Surround 700 locks you into an extremely expensive, narrow product stack with no flexibility.

5. Frequent audio dropouts and weak wireless range

Bose claims that the Surround 700 can maintain a wireless connection up to 30 feet from the soundbar. My real-world testing found that to be an extremely generous estimate. Anything beyond 20 feet introduced distracting audio drops, stutters, and desynchronization that ruined the surround effect.

This lines up with countless user reports of shoddy wireless stability on Bose‘s support forums and Reddit. Some have even resorted to sitting the Surround 700s directly next to their couch instead of behind it as intended due to constant dropouts. For $600 speakers, this level of unreliability is unacceptable, especially when companies like Sonos and Denon have mastered rock-solid wireless audio.

The issue likely stems from interference and congestion on the 2.4 GHz wi-fi band used by the 700s. In today‘s device-dense homes with dozens of wireless products, that frequency range is extremely crowded. Bose should have utilized the less noisy 5 GHz band or a dedicated wireless protocol to ensure consistently stable connections.

6. Weak bass and muddy sound profile without additional subwoofer

Let‘s talk brass tacks. To get the full, cinematic surround sound experience at home, you need two things: large, dynamic front speakers to handle most of the audio heavy lifting, and a muscular subwoofer to fill in the low-end bass. The surround speakers should complement those well without drawing too much attention.

The Bose Surround 700 speakers, with their compact size and 70 Hz – 15 kHz frequency response range, are ill-equipped in both departments. They lack the physical volume to produce soaring, dynamic movie soundtracks, and can‘t reproduce deep, tactile bass on the lower end. Crank them up and you‘ll quickly hear distortion as the small drivers struggle.

This means you absolutely need a subwoofer for a listenable surround sound experience with the 700s. Of course, Bose is more than happy to upsell you on their $849 Bass Module 700 or $499 Bass Module 500 subs. Suddenly your reasonable $599 surround speaker purchase has ballooned to a $1000+ investment.

Compare that to something like the $499 SVS Prime Satellite 5.1 speaker pack. It includes five hefty speakers with 4.5" woofers and 1" tweeters, plus a 12" 200W subwoofer that will utterly demolish any Bose sub in output. For less than the cost of the Surround 700 alone, you get an infinitely more capable, cohesive surround system. It‘s a no-brainer.

7. Poor value compared to competitors in the premium price bracket

This brings me to the final nail in the Bose Surround 700‘s coffin – the abysmal value compared to nearly every competitor in the $599 price tier. Frankly, it‘s shocking how far behind the curve Bose is here in both specs and real-world performance. A few standout alternatives:

  • Klipsch Reference Wireless 5.1: For $699 ($100 more than Surround 700), you get four hefty satellite speakers with 3.5" woofers and a 10" subwoofer. Effortless room-filling sound with deep bass.

  • SVS Prime Wireless SoundBase Surround Speakers: Also $599/pair, but with 4.5" woofers, dedicated surround processing modes, and universally compatible with any surround receiver.

  • Sonos One SL: At just $199 each, these compact speakers pack room-filling sound, voice assistant support, and wireless Atmos surround sound when paired to Arc or Beam soundbars.

  • Sony SA-RS5: $698 for a pair of wireless rear speakers with upfiring Atmos drivers built right in. Works seamlessly with Sony‘s premium HT-A7000 and HT-A5000 Atmos soundbars.

All of these options offer tangibly better audio fidelity, surround sound performance, smart features, and interoperability compared to the Bose Surround 700s. As an audio professional, I can‘t even think of a single use case where I‘d recommend the Bose over these alternatives given the price parity. They‘re categorically inferior products riding on brand recognition alone.

The verdict: A disappointing offering from a usually stellar brand

Look, I‘m not a Bose hater by any means. They‘ve released some truly outstanding speakers and headphones over the past decades that I‘ve happily recommended. But even the most reputable brands lay an egg sometimes, and the Surround 700 is undoubtedly an expensive misfire.

From the underpowered drivers and misleading surround sound specs to the missing Dolby Atmos support and exorbitant all-in cost, there‘s simply no reason to invest in the Surround 700 versus its myriad of more capable competitors. The SVS Prime Satellites, Klipsch Reference series, Sonos Ones, and Sony SA-RS5s all run circles around Bose here in every metric that matters.

If you‘re serious about building an immersive, high-performance surround sound setup that will last for years, steer your $599+ to any of the options listed above. You‘ll enjoy vastly better fidelity, reliable wireless performance, Atmos/DTS:X support, and a huge array of expansion options as your home theater grows. The Bose Surround 700s will only lead to frustration and buyer‘s remorse as you quickly hit the ceiling of their limited capabilities.

In a fast-moving audio industry with more choice than ever, Bose can no longer coast by on brand cachet and inflated prices. The underwhelming Surround 700 speakers are a prime example of how far the company has fallen behind the curve in home theater. Let‘s hope they get the message and start innovating again soon, because this ain‘t it chief. Take your money elsewhere.